ABOUT THE BOOKCornell University, Ithaca New York, 1968: The barking megaphones of the antiwar protests never seem to shut up. The cafeteria food is awful and the coffee even worse. Tony Vitelli doesn't feel properly dressed without a STRIKE! T-shirt and an Iron Butterfly album under his arm. He can't see the top of his desk for all the books and papers. And his new roommate won't acknowledge his existence. Tony's first year at college is a complicated and bumpy ride. And very, very funny.
INTERVIEW WITH GINO BARDI
Gino, how did you get started writing?
When I was in elementary school I discovered I could do magical things with writing which other kids couldn’t or wouldn’t do. I could make adults laugh!
What's your favorite thing about the writing process?
Not knowing the ending. Like climbing a long hill in a car, you can’t see the other side. But when you get to the top, and you’re exhausted, almost out of gas, then the valley on the other side is revealed, and there, in the middle, is the perfect ending. Or not. It doesn’t always work this way, but when it does, that’s my favorite part.
Do you have a writing routine?
I get up early, exercise, then sit down and stare at a blank screen until my fingers get bored and decide they want something to do. Eventually, something worth keeping, even if only temporarily, finds its way to the page.
Do you write every day?
Almost. But it’s not always fiction. I send a lot of letters, write reviews for stories, everything I have to write is another ‘opportunity.’
What do you wish you’d done differently when you first started the publishing process?
I wish I started it earlier . . . like before I wrote the book.
What do you think is hardest aspect of writing a book?
Bringing something new and worthwhile—and worth reading—to the subject. A billion books have been written, many of them were wonderful and can’t be improved upon. What/how can I say that is different, how can I bring value?
What’s more important – characters or plot?
Plot. A great story will survive weak characters. Maybe someone will rewrite it with better characters! Great characters can’t make a weak story great—though they can sustain a plot which is ABOUT their characters . . . Yes, it takes both, but I’m not supposed to say that, am I?
You cheated! That's okay. What books do you currently have published?
My first novel, The Cow in the Doorway, is it for right now, till I finish the other projects in progress!
What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
The process of writing the novel took just under two years, during which time my writing style evolved and got tighter and leaner. When I was done I had to go back to the beginning and rewrite. Early critics kept telling me, "This could be cut by 30% or 50%" or "You don’t need this chapter," and eventually I started to listen to them. Good thing, too.
What’s the oldest thing you own and still use?
My father gave me his Boy Scout knife when I was about thirteen. It has a broken blade. I keep it on my workbench and use it for everything you need a Boy Scout knife with a broken blade for.
I have my dad's too! Do you have any secret talents?
Boy, I wish. I wouldn’t tell you anyway, I know how to keep secrets. Just in case you want to tell me one.
Is writing your dream job?
No, my dream job would be a food or a travel writer/critic. Anthony Bourdain has my dream job.
True. What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
I worked as a bus boy at a beach pavilion. When we were slow I had to walk around on a huge beach, covered with beautiful girls in bikinis, dressed in a chef’s uniform, and sweep popcorn off the sand.
What did that job teach you?
1. Get a college education, and 2. Don’t try this in a high wind.
Do you have any marketing tips you could pass on to indie authors?
Drive all interested parties to your book description page then have a KILLER log line and mini-synopsis on that page.
If you could only watch one television station for a year, what would it be?
My local PBS station.
How often do you tweet?
Just started. It’s hard to adjust to the idea that there is a world of people out there interested in what I have to say. My experience with my own family would contra-indicate that.
How do you feel about Facebook?
Mixed feelings. It’s a wonderful and powerful way to connect to others. It’s also a gigantic, potential black hole of productivity. You have to learn to walk away.
Very true. What scares you the most?
Looking in the mirror. I never thought I was much to look at when I was in my teens and twenties. Boy, I was GORGEOUS, compared to now. Yikes!
LOL. Would you make a good character in a book?
Oh, absolutely. Especially if you like your characters flawed, vulnerable, and believe that bad decisions make good stories!
What five things would you never want to live without?
Good friends. Hot water. A great omelet pan. A reliable car. Air conditioning. Oh, one more: antacids, like Maalox or whatever.
What’s one thing you never leave the house without (besides your phone).
I leave the house without my phone all the time, espccially when I can’t find it. But I always take my wallet . . . you never know what you’ll find at a yard sale!
What do you love about where you live?
We live on a canal, in a bird sanctuary (others call it a swamp, what do they know?) Everyday we have dolphins and jumping fish in the canal, parrots and storks and herons come to visit.
Awesome! What's your favorite treat for movie night?
Chocolate almond bark, the kind that costs like $17 a pound.
What's the biggest lie you ever told?
I got my first job working for Billboard Magazine with a college degree in English and a year’s experience working for a magazine, which was my first successful piece of fiction (also called ‘a lie’). . .
What’s your favorite fast food?
Anything from the dollar menu at McDonalds. I only eat fast food when I am very hungry and in a hurry.
What’s your favorite beverage?
I almost said beer, but my absolute favorite beverage will always be a chocolate malted milkshake.
What drives you crazy?
I hate to wait in line. For anything. I hate heavy traffic. I will drive miles out of my way to avoid a line of cars. That counts as crazy, right?
Absolutely. What is your superpower?
Answering essay questions on college exams. I got through school, praying for essay questions. It didn’t matter if I knew the subject.
Name one thing you’re really good at and one thing you’re really bad at.
Good: I can cook a great meal with whatever I find in the refrigerator. Bad: I cannot keep track of my wallet, sunglasses, and car keys to save my frigging life.
What do you wish you could do (besides keep track of your wallet, sunglasses, and car keys)?
I wish I could play a mean electric guitar. Or bass. I’d even be happy playing bass!
What is one of your happiest moments?
The first time I went to Florida (I live there now) when I was 12 years old, we drove through the orange groves on our way to the hotel and it was orange blossom season and the air smelled like oranges, and there were oranges everywhere. When we got to the hotel, there was a bowl of oranges in the room. I lived outside of Chicago and oranges were ‘special.’ I’ve never forgotten that.
What do you like to do when there’s nothing to do?
I like to watch Road Runner cartoons.
Where is your favorite place to visit?
I love to travel and will happily visit almost anyplace I haven’t been to before.
What would you name your autobiography?
Who Wrote This Crap?
What’s your least favorite chore?
Cleaning the refrigerator. I hate to throw away food, I wind up eating stuff the dog wouldn’t touch, if I had a dog.
Would you rather be a movie star, sports star, or rock star?
A movie star. I know both movie stars and rock stars. The movie stars all outlive the rockstars. The sports guys all get brain damage.
If you could be any movie star who would you want to be?
I have always felt slighted by not being born George Clooney.
Do you give your characters any of your bad traits?
Every one of them. And then some.
Have you ever killed off a character fictionally, as revenge for something someone did in real life?
I have yet to kill a character fictionally, or in real life. But I’m working my way to that.
What’s your favorite/most visited Internet site?
Ebay. Did you know you can buy a genuine Cold War Russian diesel submarine on ebay for about $100k? It doesn’t work, of course, and you have to go get it, but seriously? A cold war submarine? For a 100 grand?!
Good to know. What’s in your refrigerator right now?
My refrigerator has so much stuff in it, you couldn’t get a stick of gum in there, if for some reason you wound up with chewing gum that had to be kept cold.
What is the most daring thing you've done?
I went scuba diving on the first Nazi submarine sunk in WWII. It had a big hole in the conning tower, and I swam into the hole and immediately got stuck in the broken wires and pipes. Bad decisions, as they say, make good stories.
What is the stupidest thing you've ever done?
I just answered that question.
I take your point. What is your most embarrassing moment?
I can’t go there right now and expect to finish this.
Understand. What choices in life would you like to have a redo on?
Seriously: After getting married and having our first kid, I decided to put aside my ambitions to be an artist (writer, musician, etc) and focus on supporting my family (real job). When I recently retired I was shocked (SHOCKED!) to see how much I didn’t know/needed to learn to resume my pursuit of art and writing, and think I might have been way ahead if I had stuck with it. Of course I might have wound up divorced and homeless, but that’s the chances we all take.
What would your main character say about you?
“Don’t believe him. He is the original unreliable narrator!”
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to write?
My mom’s eulogy. She was always my best audience and biggest booster; she wouldn’t be there to hear it.
Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it?
The Andrew Dickson White Library at Cornell University. There are places in there where you CANNOT remain awake for more than a few minutes.
Who is your favorite fictional character?
Huck Finn, of course.
Of course. If you had a talk show who would your dream guest be?
What’s one thing that very few people know about you?
I lie a lot.
Hmmm, you could be lying now. You have a personal chef for the night. What would you ask him to prepare?
Veal Oscar or chateaubriand.
How do you like your pizza?
Thin crust, lots of cheese, spicy sauce, mushrooms, sausage, and served in Little Italy, NYC. Oh, yeah, and this is important: in 1966.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I’m good at ‘five lines’- someone draws five random lines on a piece of paper and then tells me to draw something specific. It never looks like what they wanted. But I’m good at it. Ask anyone.
What’s your favorite song?
"Sultans of Swing." Check out the guitar solo. You’ll see what I mean.
What’s your favorite smell?
What’s your favorite color?
Yellow. I’m not very big. I could get run over.
What are your favorite foods?
Let’s see: Breakfast, lunch, dinner. And ice cream. Don’t forget ice cream.
What do others say about your driving?
“Would you like me to drive?”
What’s your biggest pet peeve about writing?
I think of great ideas all the time, never write them down because the idea is so awesome I know I’ll remember it, and then I CAN NEVER REMEMBER.
Been there, done that. What would you do for a Klondike bar?
I’d buy one for maybe 50 cents or so. Or maybe that’s what they cost back in the 70’s. Not much, actually. But, now, for a TULIP SUNDAE, made at the soda fountain at Woolworths, back before they all closed, for THAT I’d bark and balance a ball on my nose.
What is your favorite movie?
Good choice. Do you have a favorite book?
No, but I’m partial to anything by Twain.
If you had to choose a cliché about life, what would it be?
“Without coincidences there would be no stories.” I think that’s true. Without coincidences, everything that happens would be expected to happen. Who wants that?
What are you working on now?
Finishing a few projects—a collection of short stories (almost finished), and a YA novel about kids who build a powerful radio station out of junk and break every law that gets in the way.
ABOUT THE AUTHORGino B. Bardi was born in New York City in 1950, and lived on the South Shore of Long Island until he attended Cornell University in 1968, during the tumultuous era of Vietnam War protests. Armed with a degree in English/Creative Writing, he diligently sought work in his field and soon wound up doing everything but. For the next forty-four years he cranked out advertising copy, magazine articles, loan pitches and short stories while running a commercial printing company in Upstate New York. Along the way, he married his college girlfriend, became father to three lovely daughters, and decided that winter was an unnecessary evil. In 2008 he sold the printing business, retired, and now writes humorous fiction in his home on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Two signs hang above his desk: "Bad decisions make good stories," and Mel Brooks' advice that "You only need to exaggerate a LITTLE BIT."
The Cow in the Doorway is his first full-length novel and won the statewide Royal Palm Literary Award for best unpublished New Adult novel for 2015.
Connect with Gino:
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